On January 26, 2011, I took my last drink. It was a can of Guinness Extra Stout. In the preceding years, I must have drunk thousands of them but that was my last one and I have drunk nothing alcoholic since that date. Alcohol nearly killed me, and did kill people close to me. I think I am extremely lucky that I have been able to stop and I am lucky to be alive.
In October 2015, I moved from Northern Ireland to London to leave my chemical demons behind and to find work. After a few months I became homeless due to financial reasons. I didn’t have enough money to pay the extortionate rent in North London, so I spent a couple of weeks at a friend’s house near Colchester before finding homelessness charity Emmaus at just the right time. I had been sober for over four years by that point and I was ready to embrace normality. This is a feeling that I had never known, either in a mental or emotional sense. I feel like I always had an edge, and that there was always disharmony in my life meaning that I could never settle. Being sober for a long time brought the kind of peace that I needed.
Sobriety has taught me so much, and it is not an exaggeration to say that I would be dead had I not stopped drinking but I have found that there is more to it now. The longer I have remained sober the more I have learned about myself, about the world, and about people.
As individuals we are isolated and although we may well have partners and families and friends and people around us who give us varying degrees of support, in our minds we are truly alone. This isolation is magnified and multiplied in addiction. Because addicts behave badly they are shunned by others so they end up alone in a physical and emotional sense. That level of loneliness is something you would never understand unless you felt it. When I was trying to figure addiction out, I kept thinking I was alone - I kept thinking that I was the only person who was having a difficult time and that alcoholism was something that nobody else understood.
Through recovery, I eventually started to meet other alcoholics and it was then that I began to understand that alcoholism was not about me, it was about millions of people rather than isolated individuals. If something is effecting hundreds of thousands or millions of people then it is no longer an individual issue. This realisation was the very thing I needed to get sober because it took the pressure off me - it wasn’t about me anymore and that made getting sober much easier. Addiction is not driven by choice like many would believe, but a myriad of factors and stopping it is not a matter of clicking your fingers, it is more complicated than that.
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I have met so many people who had experienced varying degrees of homelessness and I started to see the parallels between addiction and homelessness. Homelessness cannot be treated solely as the fault of the person, but there are socio-economic, emotional, mental, financial and numerous other factors often driving the person to that position, and making it virtually impossible to get out of. While someone may be able to bring one or two factors under control often the others remain and thus the problem remains. Seeing the parallels between addiction and homelessness was what lead me to write my book No Homeless Problem And Other Poems.
I wrote this book to try and illustrate the unseen gulf between the individual and the collective. I need people to see that even if we solve many of the perceived problems of homelessness, it will remain because of the way our world is and because of the way people are. The full-on realisation that I am not alone and that I can help myself as a result has now lead me to realise that I can be a valued member of a community and that I can achieve the normality that I never thought possible.
I was able to undertake this project with the full support of Emmaus in Cambridge and the UK and I will forever be thankful for everything this organisation has done for me.
No Homeless Problem And Other Poems by Seamus Fox is available at Emmaus communities across the UK or online. Emmaus currently supports more than 800 formerly homeless people by giving them a home in one of 29 communities across the UK, meaningful work in a social enterprise, training and support to enable them to rebuild their lives.
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